Archive for the ‘
education technology ’ Category
Despite lots of change in the world of standards and teacher expectations, there are many classroom teachers who in the past could fit new standards into the same projects and lessons they have assigned year after year. These teachers seemed impervious to change. However, change is here for all teachers, and it is not coming from policy makers; it’s coming from technology.
It used to be that technology was something available to a few students and lurked on the fringes of things happening in the classroom. That’s the case no longer. For example, my district has adopted Google Apps. Every student district wide has an account and stores his or her work in the cloud. Students can share their work and collaborate with anyone in the district. This bit of technology has revolutionized what’s happening in my classroom. Collaborative project work is easy and writing and reading are more social. My students keep book logs with reviews that they share electronically with their peers. No more book reports that are handwritten, graded and recycled. Doing work that has a purpose motivates kids. (more…)
Summer is here. That’s when millions of teachers hit the beach! Well, not really. Actually, many of us hit the keyboard or sign up to take classes about technology. I took an iPad class with 31 other teachers last week. As my husband said, “What is so hard about using an iPad that you need to take a class?” We don’t take the class because the tool is hard; we take it because the technology is so easy that we need to learn how to best use the tool in the classroom. It’s too easy to put an iPad in the hands of a kid and let them dink around in the unfocused tech world.
We teachers are scrambling to use time wisely since we have fewer instructional days and more to cover. New technologies are likely to change our teaching emphasis from passively taking in information to actively producing evidence of newfound knowledge. iPads are like covering broccoli with cheese sauce; they are a sneaky way to lure kids into doing what is best for them. The focus of technology in the classroom should be to raise education to a higher intellectual endeavor: that of using knowledge to experiment and create. Creative citizens who can focus on problems and devise ways to solve them are key to our economic health. Using iPads is an itty-bitty step to achieving a broader goal. (more…)
It’s times like these that I really miss my media specialist. A lot has changed at my school and the rock that used to ground me and set me on a steady course was the media specialist. I’m not saying that she could settle the budget, solve discipline issues or reduce class sizes, but when I was puzzled about what book to recommend to a reluctant reader, or needed resources for a unit I was about to teach, I had a consultant on hand. Even more importantly, she provided technology experience and savvy that helped me integrate technology into my lessons.
What we used to label librarians are now media specialists; part tech geek, part bookworm, part cheerleader. Students seek them out when they can’t find the right book to read or the right information on the web. Media specialists teach critical research skills to students in the computer lab and in the library—skills like, how to tell if a website is the most effective way to learn about a topic, how to question the authenticity of information, and how to access general resources available to kids as they explore the vast and ever increasing world of information.
The other day I was talking to a colleague when he referenced how a teacher he supervises had been in a conundrum. Wanting to be innovative, that teacher had assigned a film project but did not have enough cameras for her students. My colleague had walked in and seen her angst, but then suggested that she ask if any students had a smartphone. Surprised that he would suggest this, she asked her class and several students raised their hands. My colleague then told her, “problem solved.”
I wish that more administrators were like my colleague. While I have been fortunate to work with schools that have been taking strides to update their technological infrastructure, my experience walking through many schools is unsettling. In an age where technological expertise is a select ticket to rapid employment and economic opportunity, our schools are rarely beacons of progress. As tech geeks like myself eagerly await the promise of the next round of iPads, schools are still hampered by draconian rules that ban smartphones and a teaching community that crawls rather than bounds toward technological integration.
“The essential question is not, ‘How busy are you?’ but ‘What are you busy at?’”
It’s probably safe to say that public education professionals in Oregon have never been so busy. They have larger class sizes, fewer staff to do more work due to budget cuts, a need to invest time in professional development to keep pace with changing technology in the field, and strong pressure to adopt fundamental changes to boost student achievement.
In a word, they are being expected to continuously improve at a time of historic cutbacks in education funding.
Needless to say, these are challenging times. But with the third year of Sisters School District’s CLASS grant under way, a significant culture change is evident. Teachers are operating less in silos, and collaborating across grades and school levels to close gaps in student knowledge. They are more open to being mentored and evaluated by peers, and see these evaluations as valuable tools for improving their instructional practices. Student achievement data is posted prominently in the District office and in all teacher lounges, and helps shape what goes on in classrooms.
I may be revealing how much television I watch, but those K12.com Oregon Virtual Academy commercials are everywhere these days. Issues of school choice aside, their refrain of praises for online learning has me thinking more and more lately about the role of technology in education. How will new technologies help students’ learning? How will digital tools change the classroom? Will all these developments help create critical thinkers and global entrepreneurs (with “21st century skills”), or will they disconnect people from each other and create a generation of frenzied consumers of the overwhelming digital stream of information?
In our current ChalkBloggers poll, not one person has selected “Utilizing new technologies” as the most important element of classroom instruction. That’s a relief to me. I would never want a teacher to sacrifice real interactions (like providing constructive feedback and creating a positive and open learning environment, the two top answers) to let a computer do it for them. No one wants robotic teaching.
But certainly, lessons can be enhanced with new digital resources—and more and more, this and future generations of technology-steeped children will need to be reached with constructive interactive tools in the classroom. No one can completely shut off to new technologies and risk being left behind. The trick is finding a balance and carefully choosing the most effective tools that will enrich, not distract from, student learning.
But how to sort through the myriad options that seem to be growing and changing even faster everyday? It seems like a full-time job just to keep up. But I’ve found a few new online resources (of course) that look to do the work for you.